Perhaps one of the most important roles at Independence City Hall seemingly went under the radar for most of the past three years.

Perhaps one of the most important roles at Independence City Hall seemingly went under the radar for most of the past three years.

Tracey Elmore, who served as the city’s management analyst for 12-1/2 years, left in September for a job as research analyst with the state of Washington. Earning an advanced degree contributed, in part, she said, to her departure, but mostly, she left because of frustration.

Despite her requests to the City Council, Elmore said, her workload in recent years remained light. But several council members say Elmore had plenty to keep busy and that her position was utilized effectively.


THE POSITION AND ITS RESPONSIBILITIES

When Elmore began as Independence’s management analyst in March 1999, she understood her position as reporting directly to the City Council and conducting performance audits at their request.

In May of this year, Elmore earned a doctorate in public administration and political science from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. This degree, Elmore said, is partly the reason she left Independence City Hall. She wanted to pursue more challenging work, she said, that would allow her to use the skills she learned while earning a Ph.D.

But Elmore also was frustrated, she said in an email interview with The Examiner.

From 2008 to 2010, Elmore said, a number of requests for audits were submitted to the Audit and Finance Committee, a three-person, council-only committee that works in coordination with the management analyst. (The management analyst is defined in the City Charter, but the Audit and Finance Committee was created by resolution in the 1980s.)

Many requests were denied, Elmore said. She performed just one audit in 2010: examining the city’s use of cell phones.

“From 1999 to 2008, this never happened,” she said. “When an audit was requested, regardless of the topic and regardless of who submitted the request, it was always approved – no exceptions. This changed in 2008. I didn’t feel that I was being allowed to do my job. This was very frustrating.”

Without audits to perform, Elmore said, she had many hours of down time each month. She said she requested work on many occasions, mostly by appealing to At-Large Council members Jim Schultz and Lucy Young. Young serves on the Audit and Finance Committee.

Elmore’s doctoral thesis topic regarding time management of employees, Young said, is the only audit she could remember that Elmore had suggested. But that idea was looked at with skepticism.

“As we have continued to cut staff for so many years, I felt that this would not be fair at this time to the city employees that have worked so very hard with no raises for years and increased responsibilities,” Young said by email. “If we were even close to being fully staffed, I may have felt differently.”

Elmore continued to review the city’s largest contracts and produced several memorandums on topics like the amount of outstanding fines due to the city’s Municipal Court. She also periodically assisted the Police Department in destroying weapons and other property no longer needed as evidence.

Like any job, Mayor Don Reimal said, times exist with the management analyst job where more work needs done than at others. Until recently, Reimal served as chairman of the Audit and Finance Committee.  

He acknowledged that several potential auditing topics were withdrawn from consideration, including a look into the city’s nepotism policy introduced by the late Council Member Will Swoffer, because the answers were found – to the council’s satisfaction – without going through a full audit.

“I think the communication was there,” Reimal said. “The analyst had access to anything she wanted to have access to. I think it was working fairly well, but then again, there is always room for improvement.”

Young said she pulled her audit request for the Crackerneck Creek tax increment financing project as executive sessions related to litigation took place and she felt as though she received the necessary information. Bass Pro Shops anchors the Crackerneck Creek project.

When Elmore didn’t receive assignments, she said, she read industry publications and newsletters produced by the Association of Local Government Auditors and the Institute of Internal Auditors. Elmore also attended training sessions, when possible, and read books related to her profession.

And sometimes, she said, she simply rearranged filing cabinets.  

“I did indeed go through every piece of paper in my office,” Elmore said. “I discarded items no longer needed and reorganized papers that needed to be maintained.”

Elmore said she is unsure of why she was not allowed to conduct more audits from 2008 until she left in early September.

“I have theories,” she said, “but my thoughts would be speculation.”

She referred the question of why she wasn’t allowed to perform more audits to Reimal and City Manager Robert Heacock, adding, “They were in charge of deciding whether an audit would be performed.”

Young disagreed with Elmore, saying she had never heard Heacock asking Elmore to report to him.

“While it is true that (Heacock) did not always agree with (Elmore’s) findings, to my knowledge, they were able to develop a fair-minded relationship,” Young said. “Personally, I don’t want the auditor to feel they have to always agree with the city manager, as that is not the function of the office.”